Pickpocket tells the story of a young intellectual who, judging from his ragged suits and barren and modest Paris apartment, hones his skills at petty thievery simply for the thrill. Through his own narration and journal entries, we learn how he gets in with a gang of pickpockets and his eventual downfall, during which he neglects his dying mother and the woman he loves. The film is lovingly and carefully crafted by Robert Bresson, one of the most patient and virtued of directors and a primary influence on The French New Wave. Take the opening scene, for example, with the lead character at a racetrack. Filmed with precision, we see him study his mark, a female onlooker, and take his place behind her as she watches the race. In an extended shot that seems out of place, we wait alongside him for the perfect moment to pop the button on her purse, reach inside, and relieve it of its contents. Other scenes, such as this, allow Bresson to demonstrate his considerable skill as a director, often making sublime use of close-up and minimalism. The movie, in addition to being carefully directed, takes a basic plot while adding existential elements to it, and has often been cited as resembling Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Again, it has been extremely influential to subsequent filmmakers and the final and penultimate scenes are unforgettable.
*** 1/2 out of ****